Rural Hospitals

Glynis Board

Two rural hospitals in Appalachia -- one in Wheeling, one just across the river in Ohio -- announced they were closing in mid-August. 

 

 

 

Altogether, the closures will directly impact about 1,100 jobs. But, indirectly, it could affect the entire economy of the area. 

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice
WV Governor's Office

Gov. Jim Justice and WVU Medicine held a press conference today at Wheeling Hospital to announce preliminary plans to cover the health care and job gap left in the Northern Panhandle following the announcement of two hospital closures last month. 

 

WVU Medicine CEO Albert Wright said WVU-owned Reynolds Memorial Hospital had recently hired a handful of new physicians and plans to add 9-10 new exam rooms within its emergency department, which will allow the hospital to support an additional 15,000 patient visits per year.

Glynis Board

Representatives from WVU and WVU Medicine say they are “very close” to announcing a solution to some of the job and health care losses projected in the northern panhandle after two hospitals announced they were closing earlier this month.

 

In an interview with WV Metro News Thursday, WVU President Gordon Gee said there are plans to expand on what WVU Medicine is already doing in the northern panhandle.

 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, citizens are taking pipeline construction regulations into their own hands. We hear the latest on the Mountain Valley Pipeline and pipeline monitoring, and we hear reports on two rural hospitals and the epidemic of black lung disease.

WVU Medicine

Nationally, nearly a quarter of all rural hospitals are struggling to stay open. In West Virginia, almost 40 percent of rural hospitals are at risk of closure. There are several reasons for that. 

 

 

“Inability to recruit physicians to small communities, declining population base, roughly 10,000 people a day go on Medicare and Medicare [which] doesn’t cover the cost of care in a hospital environment,” explained Dave Ramsey, CEO and president of Charleston Area Medical Center. 

Adobe Stock

A new study has found visits to rural emergency departments increased by more than 50 percent from 2005 to 2016 with the most dramatic usage changes among non-Hispanic white patients, Medicaid beneficiaries and those without insurance. This increase is putting more pressure on already strained safety-net hospitals.

Researchers found the increase may be, at least in part, due to an increase in patients using the emergency department for illnesses that require less care or those that are chronic in nature.

Adobe Stock

New research by the Chartis Center for Rural Health has found that current and pending federal health policies are putting a bigger financial strain on already struggling rural hospitals. 

The report found the percentage of rural and critical access hospitals working at a negative operating margin has increased from 40 to 44 percent. 

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A vote on the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has been put on hold after several Republican Senators, including West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito, have publicly said they cannot support it. Nationally, opposition for the bill continues to mount as more and more groups release reports about the negative impacts the current bill could have on access to treatment in rural areas, like much of West Virginia.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The number of coal mining jobs in Boone County has halved during the past two years. Drive through the county now, and signs of depression are becoming evident in shuttered storefronts and homes in increasing need of repair.


After Obamacare: Rural Health Providers Nervous About Affordable Care Act Repeal

Feb 26, 2017
Photo Courtesy of Mountain Comprehensive Care

Mike Caudill runs Mountain Comprehensive Care Corporation in five eastern Kentucky counties. Many of his 30,000 patients gained insurance through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. No one knows if or when those folks might lose coverage. But, Caudill said, the impact could be considerable.

Kara Lofton / WV Public Broadcasting

At the emergency room at Preston Memorial Hospital, nurses are wheeling 47-year-old John Shaffer to an imaging room. He’s been having chest pains and trouble breathing.

“I went to my family doctor first and they did an EKG and then I came here,” he said. The distance between his doctor’s office and the hospital is about ten miles. The next closest hospital is close to an hour away – a distance not unheard of in rural Appalachia.

Recent research shows almost a third of Appalachia’s rural hospitals are vulnerable to closure, though.